Legends of Tech
A weekly podcast where Chris Georgellis, on the Customer Development Team, interviews people across the tech industry. From veterans, to hall of famers, day to day tech industry people as well up and comers. Get to know them as individuals, find out what drives them, how they got into tech, and what they see now.
And we're live. Good morning everyone. Welcome to Cloudflare TV, Legends of Tech, where I've got a sensational host today at Tread.
He's a mountain biker, he's a paddle boarder, he's a carpenter, he's worked for companies such as O, Sirius Media, Digital Tech and now Cloudflare.
Please welcome Nick Toulson. Hello everyone.
Thanks for the introduction, my man. That's very kind of you. I think I was thinking about this earlier, Legends of Tech.
Maybe it should be anything associated with legends and tech is kind of awesome.
I want to be all over that. But maybe it should be Legends of Tech and Nick.
Well, thank you for your time today, buddy.
Really appreciate it. You're welcome.
On to today's session. So, mate, I love your background, by the way. It looks like you're a high archer.
Thank you very much. The iconic, for those that don't know, the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge.
I don't know why I look behind me, but there you go.
Yeah, it is one of the iconic landmarks in Sydney. Beautiful. Perfect, mate.
So, I want to know, how did you get into the tech industry, my friend? Well, my background is actually in media.
I went to university, did a marketing degree at university and then spent a bit of time at home and my mother suggested that it would probably be a good idea to get a job.
So, I moved to London, spent four years working in London.
My first job was selling. I was literally selling advertising space.
You know, you sell by the word. This was back in 2003, I should add.
So, it was by the word and it was in the back of the magazines and it was a way of earning a bit of coin.
It was great fun. It was media. It was cool. I had a lot going on and that gave me a really good insight into what's required around sales.
I literally had a A3 bit of paper that I had to write every customer I'd spoken to, the contact name, contact number, comments and all the rest of it.
So, I was there for four years and then ended up managing a small team out of North London for the same company and I was kind of fortunate enough to be given a bit of responsibility at a relatively young age and then I kind of got a bit of cold feet, to be honest.
I love London. It's an amazing city, but I'm a country boy and I was trying to decide whether I'd move out of London and go somewhere else or go travelling and I'd never travelled before.
I'd never really ventured out of Europe.
I'd done a few bits and pieces, but nothing too exciting and just thought, you know what, I might need to do something different.
So, I did and I came to Australia and I backpacked and did the West Coast up towards Bloom and then came back and did the East Coast.
Met some amazing people, friends that I still friends to this day and you get to a point where you've got to decide.
I was literally a year, I was going to do a year and I got to a point where I had to decide whether I came home or stayed and stayed means getting a proper job, getting sponsored.
I'm not an Australian resident. I wasn't at the time and I did that and I basically worked for a very similar company that I did in the UK called Serious Media and it was skewed around the media space.
Was that intentional? I mean, did you always want to get into media?
I kind of wanted a job. Like I said, I did a master's degree at university, so I had a bit of an inkling around media.
I loved the visuals of media, the different media formats and it was just exciting.
It was really incredibly exciting time. I would have been back in London, I would have been 22, 23.
You're doing the corporate lunches, you're meeting amazing people.
It probably sounds more glamorous than it really is. It's a hard job.
Picking up a phone 30, 40 times a day isn't for everyone. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but it taught me an awful lot.
As I said, I met some people that have influenced my career and got me into that tech landscape.
Just going back to when I arrived in Australia, I'd worked for a company called Serious Media.
There was a title that I was running called BNT and they targeted media.
Media was going through a lot of fragmentation at the time.
The traditional customers, the traditional publishers were becoming less and less and it was all about programmatic.
That sort of got me a bit interested in tech. There was obviously a bit of fragmentation within traditional media and I was starting to think, is this where I want to be in 10 years' time?
I'm always thinking long term. Then in 2013, I finished working at Serious Media and worked for a company called AMIA.
AMIA is a digital trade association.
They engage in the digital community and leverage events and build that community for digital people and digital practitioners, digital experts, agencies, that sort of stuff.
That was when I met a couple of guys.
One was CEO of Hostworks. He sat on the AMIA board. Another guy who was the CEO of AMIA was brought across to Hostworks as chief revenue officer.
Towards the end of my time at AMIA, they were managing a merger with another trade association.
They said, look, I already expressed an interest that tech was the place for me and where I wanted to be.
They backed me, having had no formal tech experience, and brought me across to Hostworks.
Hostworks are quite a traditional managed services business.
They've got their own infrastructure. They were being challenged by the likes of AWS, who were coming in and transforming that landscape.
That was the first. I didn't know what I was doing. It was quite an intimidating prospect.
I spent 10 years in media, knew all about media, knew how to sell ads.
All of a sudden, it was swim time. During your media stint, what was it like?
You started pre-Facebook. Yeah. That makes me sound really old, Chris. Like us this morning around just how the landscape has changed in the last 10 years.
You being in the media space, were you selling ads and things like that? How much of a disruption was the tech phase in the social media platforms?
It probably hadn't.
What happened? Massively. It was just disruption.
Certainly, at my time at Service Media, we'd gone from being really heavily print -focused.
Advertising agencies would literally wait for the magazine to come through the front door, or land in the agency, or whatever it might be.
Inevitably, online disrupted that.
We managed to extend our audiences. It was a case of transferring revenue.
We have to be creative with online marketing campaigns, whether it's newsletters.
We did a lot around events. We had award ceremonies. We had community events.
A lot of it was about identifying specific communities. We did Women in Tech, which is still going to this day.
It was obviously a focus on women in the tech community.
We did an award ceremony focused around under-30s.
Really trying to evangelize the under-30s community, empower them, and give them something that they can ultimately be proud of.
It's a bit of a benchmark for their career as they progress.
That gave me that visibility into tech.
It was that, okay, this is transforming the landscape for me. The career that I have now is unlikely to exist, or at least in the same scale, in 10, 15, 20 years' time.
It was a deliberate thing. I met a couple of really important people in my career.
It's probably four or five people that I've met have influenced my career.
They brought me into host work. It was skewed around the media side of things.
A lot of it was around streaming and delivery and all that sort of stuff.
I was there for a couple of years. Foundations for me were then laid in terms of, okay, I'm now comfortable in this environment.
It's an incredible opportunity.
Then, two and a half years later, Cloudflare came along, and I jumped at the chance to join Cloudflare.
Tell me a little bit about why did you come to Oz? What was the first moment?
I'll give you my sliding doors moment. I was working in London, in Notting Hill, the northern part of London.
My boss had lent me his car for the day. I lived in a place called Chelmsford, which is about an hour's drive away from London.
I thought, brilliant, I've got an hour in the car.
It was like a Lexus LS, something.
It was pimped. For a 26-year -old, I'd never driven a nice car before. That was quite an enlightening moment.
I thought, okay, brilliant. Then, I was, believe it or not, working a little bit late.
A friend of mine who I worked with came back from a pub lunch, a couple of schooners in, and I offered to give her a lift home, which basically meant I get an extra half an hour in the boss's car.
In that half an hour, she raved about Australia.
She literally did not stop. She was planning on going again.
This was March 2006. This is going back a few years.
By the time I'd dropped her off, by the time I'd got home, which was about an hour, an hour and a half later, I'd phoned my mum and said I'm moving to Australia.
I kid you not.
I was so convinced. I was so convinced. That timing was perfect. I'd done four years working for the same company in London.
I probably got to a point where my career was as far as it could go in that company.
It was right to start to think about something else, but I'd never felt quite so comfortable with a decision I'd made that has ultimately been significant for me.
It's a significant move.
Almost exactly six months later, I had a flat in Chelmsford, which I've still got.
That went up for rent. I came out here with a backpack.
October the 16th, 2006. I knew one person.
I spent the first, so I found a man from university, so I stayed with him for a few days.
I had my first beer in the new Brighton in Manly. Yeah, I know.
A fine establishment, I should add. Yeah, and as I said, I did the travelling, loved the travelling.
You get to a point when you're away from home that it actually becomes harder to leave than it is to stay, because you start to get a friendship group that becomes really quite a close friendship group.
I had to go through the sponsorship process that everybody goes through, which is quite difficult, and then I became a permanent resident, and I'm now a citizen.
So, super proud of that.
That's been a real big achievement for me, and it's something I'm incredibly proud of.
It was like, bang, I'm shifting.
I was convinced enough to phone my mother and tell her I'm moving to Australia within...
It was just the right decision. You know you just know.
You know when you just know, and I'd originally planned it to be a year, but I had a sneaky feeling that if there was an opportunity to stay a bit longer, that I'd probably find that hard to turn down.
Yeah, and it's probably the best thing I've ever done.
I've been fortunate as well.
My parents are certainly in their latter years, so to speak, where they've been six times.
Mum loves potting around manly and all that sort of stuff, so I've been really fortunate in that respect that I've had friends and family come over and visit me on a fairly regular basis.
The guilt of being away from home is sort of reduced slightly because of that.
It's a good excuse for people to travel, because it's funny.
During that time, a lot of us, all the Aussies, were heading to London. A lot of people from England were heading here, and it was just fascinating hearing both of your story, right?
Because I was actually about to go and work in London for a few years, but it was just at the time the GFC had hit, so I'd literally got everything sorted.
It's just amazing to see how many Aussies went overseas to work.
The boss that lent me his car was Australian, and he's now back in Sydney.
I had been for some time, but he probably got me into cricket, actually.
I was a cricket fan, but not a cricket obsessive. The banter that we had over the cricket, he was in town for the 2005 Ashes and all that sort of stuff.
I owe a lot to him professionally, certainly in terms of the clear opportunities that he gave me in lending me his car that night.
That's a sliding doors migraine, right?
Oh, I should add. I returned the car the next day in perfectly good condition, but slightly low on petrol, i.e.
£5 worth of petrol left in the tank, and I had car privileges immediately withdrawn.
So, I was banned from using the car ever again.
That was a one-time only occurrence. That's good.
Look where it's led you to. You mentioned before there's been some key people that have influenced you and helped you throughout your career.
Why has that been so important for you, and how has it led to some of the decisions you've made in terms of your career?
The people I've met have not just influenced my career, but they've been mentors.
Jono, the guy from Archon back in London, I was still calling and to the fat with him and just talked things through.
David Holmes, Will Berryman over at AMU and then Hostworks.
So, they've influenced my career in a practical sense in terms of providing opportunities for me, but they've also provided me with mentorship, and I think that's been really valuable for me.
It's a sounding board, someone I can talk to, someone I can chew the fat over about my career, about opportunities where I should go, and they're very trusted in that respect.
So, I value that incredibly.
They've backed up what they said they would do and provided me the opportunities that have led me to where I am today.
So, I've been incredibly fortunate to have met those people.
That's fantastic. I mean, look, it's so important.
I think we probably do it naturally, but I guess people need to understand the importance of having, not just from a career point of view, but I guess to your point, having mentors that can help you through life and help you with something that you're making.
Like, jumping on a plane, country boy, goes to London, and all of a sudden is in Australia.
You look at that whole process, and it sounds like everyone does it, but I think a lot of people find it hard to make those decisions, but you made a really interesting point around you just felt that it was a good thing to do, and I think, I guess, how important does gut instinct or the vibe or the feeling, and how, I guess, how has that played in your life?
I tend to be, probably not enough is the answer.
I tend to reflect a bit too much and think things through, but on the example I've given about how I came to Australia, that wasn't the case.
It did feel quite spontaneous, but ultimately it wasn't really.
It took me six months before I actually, officially packed my bags and landed in Australia.
Sometimes you just know.
Sometimes you just know that a decision is the right decision, and I suppose I always had a bit of a plan B.
If it didn't work out, I could come back after a year, and nothing's lost.
I could tick that box off. I've been to Australia. I've travelled around.
I've changed my outlook on life, and a lot of that is about changing outlooks.
You don't want to change outlook on life. You want to see a different culture.
Australian English culture isn't too different, but see a different part of the world, experience something different, and that was, it just felt like the right time, right place, right time, right opportunity.
It's a cliche, light bulb moment. I don't know, but I try and think things through and plan things out.
That example was a bit of spontaneity and a bit of planning.
I still didn't know what I was doing the day I landed in Australia. I still had to get picked up from the airport because I was a little bit intimidated about getting the train to the city.
Someone come and help me out. I do remember the light coming.
You would have had a perception or an expectation of Oz in terms of what it was going to be like.
What was it like? You said it was scary. Was it scary?
Was it exciting? Yeah. It was everything. It was all mixed of emotions.
I remember my, I landed fairly late on in the evening and I sat in the front of the ferry and to my left was the Harbour Bridge, to my right was the Opera House.
The first thing I thought was the Opera House isn't actually as white as it looks like on the postcards.
I thought, I can do with a lick of paint. Fair enough. We'll let that one slide.
There is a massive difference.
I love the sports in Camerada. I love the lifestyle. I love the fact we've just come into, or starting to come into summer and it's been a 30 degree weekend.
I appreciate, I am incredibly lucky to live in Manly and on the Northern beaches and have even more opportunities to embrace that lifestyle.
It's been an incredibly fortunate ride for me. I've loved every minute of it.
I wouldn't change it for the world. I've met people I would never have met.
I've been to sporting events that I would never have been to.
I've done the Boxing Test in Melbourne. We took a bit of a flogging that day, being an Englishman, unfortunately.
I've been to England and Australia rugby games, both in Australia and more recently in Japan for the World Cup.
It's presented me with opportunities that I would not have had if I'd stayed in the UK.
It's not saying it's any better or any worse. Who knows what would have happened if I'd stayed in the UK.
It's just different. But I think you've got to embrace it.
I know you said at the start, I do mountain biking and supballing both very badly, I should add, but I mountain bike a lot on the Northern beaches.
I've got a trail 10 minutes away from where I live.
I play supball, which for those of you who don't know is standard paddleboarding, kind of come rugby, come football, where you've got goals and you've got to score an opposing net.
Basically, that's probably the best way to sum it up. I don't know, I would never have done that if I'd stayed in England, but it would have been a different life.
Not necessarily a better or worse, but just different.
So you never did mountain biking in the UK, did you Sam? No, really. I mean, I had a bike, you know, everyone has a bike.
But I never, I was probably one thing that I was really quite focused on when I got here was once I felt a bit more settled was to embrace that lifestyle.
So even though I'm not a massive, massive fan of the water, I tried surfing, I've got two pristine surfboards in the garage.
So I have tried surfing and being out in the water. I've just tried to embrace it, and embrace the opportunity because I don't want to, particularly at the start, I was on a sponsorship visa, there was no guarantee that I would stay long term or could stay long term.
I wanted to be in the water and embrace the lifestyle as much as I possibly could.
You know, whether that's snorkeling, puddle boarding, mountain biking, and I'm glad I did.
It's made the experience of living in Australia even better.
Yeah, that's great. And how often do you mountain bike now? Is that like one of your core sports?
Yeah, in summertime, I'll try and go three or four times a week.
There's talk of a boys trip to Fedbo. So you know, you know, yeah, so I was snowboarding in Fedbo a couple of months ago.
So talk of a boys trip to Fedbo and do some of the mountain trails around there.
I'm a bit of a creature of habit, I guess.
I like my trails. Don't know if I like to veer too much off the trails that I'm familiar with.
The trail I've done, I've probably done a thousand times.
Other trails I've probably done a dozen, less than a dozen. I don't know, familiarity is probably not a bad thing when it comes to mountain biking.
I do see the occasional snake though, Chris. So for anybody listening from England or where there's non-venomous snakes.
A friend of mine did actually ride over an eastern brown snake not too long ago and that put the fear of God into him.
It was quite an experience to see that.
It's funny because everyone talks about like, you know, when I travel overseas, I always ask the questions around spiders, this, that.
I actually think people don't come to Australia because of that reason. There's sharks in the water.
There is. Yeah, I get that. But, you know, you're more likely to get hit by a bus than nibbled on by a shark and there's snakes and there's spiders.
I think that literally scares people from even thinking about coming to Australia.
It's one of those things because we don't think about it because we've grown up in this environment.
So we never think about that. Once I meet someone, I've got relatives in Greece, for example, and they're always freaking me out about the sharks.
They're like, how can you stand sharks? And it's like, well, if you grow up in a particular environment, you get used to it.
And I guess, you know, to your point before, I think a lot of people must avoid Oz because they think literally there's probably snakes in the suburbs.
They're going to come and get you and attack you.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. It is. Yeah, I totally, totally agree.
I think people... I know my friends in the UK, particularly the friends I grew up with, I think they do look at me slightly bewildered.
You know, what is this Australia you talk of?
I think they think everyone's like Mick Dundee, you know?
Mick Dundee's super cool, but I think there's a bit of a perception, you know, there's crocodile hunters in every corner.
You know, you like to do a bit of outdoorsy stuff.
I guess how important is, I guess, having, you know, things like exercise and other activities to, I guess, to do, you know?
Oh, yeah. I guess, how do you leverage things outside of work, I guess, to help you as an individual and mentally and obviously physically as well?
I mean, definitely there's a physical aspect, but for me, it's probably more the mental thing for me.
And maybe even more so now we're working from home and literally I'm in my apartment chatting to you and doing my day-to-day job from the comfort of my lounge room.
And that's great, but you need to have something that's different to that.
And I love the physical exercise, but for me, it's the mental thing that I get most out of exercise.
And it's also the community of people you meet when I I played set ball on Saturday morning and there was 15, 16 people and it was a beginner's class.
So, I was hoping to facilitate the beginner's class.
It was 30 degrees. I'm meeting 15 people I've never met before.
It's just, it's good for the mind, right? Just as it is good for the physical benefits of keeping the heart ticking over.
That's the most valuable aspect of doing all that sort of stuff for me.
That's great. And I mean, you raise a valid point, right?
Especially now where everyone's working from home every day.
I mean, these outlets are so important. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. If you didn't have these, I guess, hobbies or call it, you know, passions, do you think things would be a lot different for you mentally and obviously how you approach it?
I think it'd be a lot harder. And, you know, definitely part of the reason that I do those is to be mindful of my mental health.
You know, I live on my own. I want to get out and try and meet people and be conscious that I don't get to a point where I don't have a platform to do something different or an opportunity to do something different.
I think that's really important.
And having that balance as well. You know, we all work hard.
We're committed to building that team and delivering numbers and being as successful as we can be.
And that can be quite stressful, particularly, you know, back end of every quarter.
It is the nature of the industry we're in and we all love it and we all, you know, we all embrace it.
But at the same time, I think you've got to try and do something.
I think it is good to try and do something different and try and have a balance in our work and professional lives.
I think you're spot on. And it's funny, I was having a chat to a mate today because I cycle now in the mornings and we're talking.
He just turned 42 yesterday and I just asked him a question.
I go, do you think you're fitter now than you were 15 years ago?
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. He goes, there would have been no way I'd be getting up at five o'clock in the morning cycling at 10, 15 years ago.
He goes, it's how much of a benefit it does as well.
I think for me included, you know, I didn't start, you know, getting into like, you know, sports and playing things until my mid-twenties.
Like I was active, but it's not like I was, you know, getting up at five in the morning, getting to the gym and doing that sort of stuff.
And it's quite funny, you see a lot more fitter 40 year olds or mid-40s than 20 year olds now.
Totally agree. And the people you see out on the mountain bike trails are often 40 plus and they whistle past.
You know, they are the fittest guys on the trail.
And I think you just know yourself a bit better, don't you? As you get a bit older, you know, you don't want to wake up with a hangover three days a week.
You become a bit more sensible, I guess, conscious of your diet, conscious of your mental health, conscious of your physical health.
And if you don't get it right, you age pretty quickly.
So 50 and 60 becomes really hard if you're not fit at 40.
And I'm sort of mindful of that as well. So it's been, and I do wonder whether being in Australia and having access to an outdoor lifestyle that is literally on my doorstep has really helped facilitate that.
But then, you know, you've got to have a discipline to be able to go out and do it.
I tell you what, every time I go around Manly Dam, which is the local trail, and I've been a thousand times, I'm still a tiny bit nervous every time I go.
Every time I go, just because, I don't know, it's just a little bit of a, it's a buzz.
Yeah, it's a buzz, it's good. It's a buzz, right?
And, you know, could this be the ride where I hit another tree, or go over the handlebars, or see a venomous snake sort of chasing me down the trail?
You know, could this be the one where I go totally wrong? But I love that. I love the buzz.
It's a buzz. You know, it's a buzz. I love that. It kind of gets you out of bed in the morning.
That's good. So, mate, so you were in the media career for quite some time, and then you transitioned to hosting.
What was it like pivoting between industries?
And I guess, was everything transferable, or did you have to sort of learn things from ground up?
What was that like? Yeah, a lot of transferable skills.
But it's the core skills, you know, it's the core skills. Like I said to you at the start, you know, I had a call sheet of all the people I'd contacted and left comments and all that sort of stuff.
It gave me an understanding that proactivity and being positive and on the front foot and all the rest of it is incredibly important.
So, you know, understanding how to build pipeline, understanding how to manage expectations internally, how to engage with customers.
You know, it's a bit of a cliche, but I guess people buy off people.
And I think the relationship side of things is certainly something that was entrenched in me from those early days.
You know, building out not just a pipeline, but a pipeline where the relationship with customers is, or prospects is strong.
And the challenge for me when, and I knew everything about media, you know, digital assets, print assets, events, was learning the tech.
And that is, yeah, it's intimidating, right? You know, all of a sudden you're talking, you're talking a different language, but the means of engaging with customers don't change fundamentally.
They have a problem, we have a solution.
You marry up the solution to the challenges that they're facing. And that goes, you know, the synergies between media and tech are very similar in that respect.
You just got to learn the tech and understand it. And also, I think, you know, the access to resources here, particularly at Cloudflare is probably the best I've ever had.
You know, we're not, we're not there to be tech evangelists. We have people that can help do that, whether it's a solutions engineer.
And obviously, you know, we work really closely with our solutions engineers to do that technical discovery and then the delivery side of things, whether it's specific product managers.
You know, I'm constantly in conversation with AJ or Westam or any of the product or Dan, any of the product managers that are specifically focused on particular verticals.
So it's probably more of a managing those projects, managing those processes that I think has become more important in certainly at Cloudflare as the technologies evolve and become more complex.
Yeah, for sure. I mean, I didn't do that so much in media.
Well, I mean, you know, yeah, maybe that's not quite true.
I did a bit, you liaise with the editor. Can I put an ad in front? Can I put an ad right there in the middle of your beautiful editorial piece?
No, you can't, Nick.
What about a double page spread? You know, and what about you write the story for this customer?
You know, it's a little bit of negotiation, but I think managing those internal stakeholders is, there's more access to resources in a company like Cloudflare than there was enough experience before.
I can imagine. How have you managed, I guess, the isolation in terms of dealing with customers?
How have you dealt with everything being online and us doing Zoom calls and not physically being able to meet people?
How's that affected you as a I think it has.
Yeah. Yeah, I don't. I much, and I, you know, I've talked about it a bit before.
I much prefer the face-to -face. I much prefer to be able to physically meet somebody.
I think that's where sales guys naturally thrive, right? And I think that sort of lines up well with the Australian market and what I experienced in the UK as well.
People want to look you in the eye and actually have a, you know, whether it's a coffee catch -up or a meet-in-person.
I think that's been something that I've been typically used to.
This is a different way of doing things and you've got to learn and adjust and it's not plain sailing, but it's not probably going to go away anytime soon.
I think you need to be slightly more proactive on a Zoom call because you do lose that slightly.
You're one step further removed than you would be if you're meeting somebody in person and I think you just need to be a bit more on the front foot to be able to have the same level of relationship and engagement.
But, you know, I suspect it's going to be the new normal for at least a few more months, but I do miss the personal interaction, I have to say, and not just the prospects with colleagues, right?
Last time I saw you was a month ago, six weeks ago, whenever it was.
It will inevitably probably land in a happy medium, but you know, missing chewing the fat at the water cooler with my colleagues is something that has definitely been difficult for me.
I can only imagine how difficult it's been for new people that have come on board to not have access to that and I think that's been a challenge, but I think it's just something that we've had to get used to and to be fair, you know, we talk every Zoom every day, don't we?
We have, you know, if this had happened 10, 15 years ago, it would probably be a different story.
We wouldn't have access to Zoom or the means of communication that we do, and I think we've done a great job of trying to make the best of it, but it is still something I miss.
I miss the, you know, the personal touch. Yeah, all I took, yeah, it's definitely the water cooler conversation, but it's also that pulse that you will not necessarily pick up over a Zoom call, like.
Yeah, the instincts. You're overhearing things, you bump into people out and about.
I mean, you know, if I look at, you know, my history of, you know, being in IT, a lot of it's always been through you bump into someone, you meet someone, you get introduced to someone else.
Now we've just got to work for that. What are some of the things that you've done, I guess, you know, knowing what you know now, were you conscious around engagement with customers and did you have to adjust, I guess, your modes in order to engage with people?
I think you've got to adjust to the customer and be mindful of that.
So some customers, I mean, I have met with customers face to face and they're happy to do that.
Some customers are less comfortable doing that and I think you've just got to adjust to what the customer's happy with.
It'll be, you know, some customers, I think their default is now Zoom or Hangouts or whatever it might be and it will be for forever more.
You know, I suspect there'll be some customers that will remain comfortable in that environment and probably not, will be more reluctant to have face to face meetings.
I think you've just got to be adaptable.
You know, the best way is to pick up the phone. I, you know, starting this quarter, I still, you know, I'm looking at the pipeline and going, okay, when's this going to close, when's this going to close?
Pick up the phone and have a chat.
You know, most of the time they might not answer, 100% of the time they might not answer.
It doesn't matter. You know, it doesn't matter. Tweet them an email, send them a letter, do it the old fashioned way.
It is way easier to communicate with customers now than it was when I started in media.
I remember when I started in the big thing was, I mean, we had emails, I'm not that old, you know, it was 2003.
You know, it wasn't, we didn't have a wind up phone or anything like that.
But the, and the trick was a one call close.
If you could cold call a customer and sell them on a one call close, that was a trick.
You were then considered golden.
You know, you were literally, literally paraded. You'd have awards given to you.
You are the golden person if you could do that. So actually in real, in reality, it's probably way easier to communicate with customers than it ever has been.
It's just that perception is slightly different. Yeah.
I roll on the day where we can sit over coffee and have a catch up with a customer and that become the norm rather than the, you know, being less normal.
I mean, but to your point, I mean, I think, ultimately I think we're going to be, you know, we're not going to get back to where it was before, but it's, I think we're going to end up somewhere in between.
Or land somewhere in the middle.
I feel like good salespeople would be able to adapt to that. And I think, and I think, and I, you know, go back to my media time when I started in media, it was all in print.
You have to adapt to where your audience is going and what your audience wants to engage with.
And that became online and that became events.
We were able to do that on two occasions when I was in London and when I was working with Sirius Media in Sydney.
This is just another way of adapting and doing something different.
And if you can, as I said, if you can, if you can adapt to that, you'll be successful regardless.
That's great. Mate, so when you think about your career as a whole, I guess key pivotal lessons that you've learned during that period that sort of.
Oh, good question. Patience, I think. And particularly when I moved across to Hostworks and then more recently Cloudflare.
I think that's been really important for me and just not trying to rush things and trying to just build out that base of knowledge and understand it's not going to happen overnight and not to be harsh on myself.
But also resilience.
I think that was probably ingrained in me from day one. You know, when I first started working in media, it's particularly important to be resilient.
Picking up a phone and cold calling out of the yellow pages was effectively what I was doing.
And you get some rather abrupt responses. If you catch someone on a bad day and you can make 40 phone calls and not get anywhere.
And I think that does build out a level of resilience.
That has certainly helped me for my for my career and also just be enthusiastic.
Just give it a go. Do your best.
Put your best foot forward. That goes so far for me.
You know, a good attitude and someone that is willing to give things a go, use their own initiative, drive the conversation forward, whatever it might be.
Drive your own learnings forward. I've got tremendous respect for anyone that can do that and is willing to do that.
I think they're the foundations of a pretty good career.
I know when we look at BDRs, and we're obviously recruiting a lot in Australia and at East for that matter, but certainly BDRs, they're big qualities that I look for.
You know, that I identify, look for and think would be successful in any company, but particularly a company like Cloudflare where we're on that massive curve and you've got to hang on.
You've got to roll with it.
And in terms of your career, I mean, are there any specific highlights for you that stand out?
Any achievements that you go, wow, you can't believe that happened?
I think I was managing my first team was quite a big highlight for me. I don't know if highlight is quite the right word.
It was a big learning curve for me. It's probably the first time that I actually realised that not everyone thinks like me.
And rightly so, that would be a very boring place to be if they did. But being able to adapt to how different people behave and act and think and what motivates them was a real eye-opener for me and a challenge.
But I think I managed to realise that when I was managing the team.
Definitely securing an opportunity that working for Serious Media at the time that led me to become a resident.
And more recently, a citizen is probably my proudest moment, I think. And I know that's a bit professional, a bit personal as well.
That's something I'm incredibly proud of.
And then that move to tech, meeting a couple of guys that thought highly enough of me to bring them into that company and provide me with an opportunity and a foundation to work in tech has been incredibly valuable for me and helped put me in a position where I am today, for sure.
That's amazing. So, you're in the tech industry now, you're working for Housework.
How did the collapse opportunity come to you?
Did you go look for it? Yeah, I went looking for it.
I basically applied for a job on LinkedIn and then one of the first guys who started working for the A&M market guy called Dave phoned me up and said, let's have a chat.
And I think Dave quite liked the fact that I've done a little bit of, I understood the infrastructure landscape, I understood the hosting landscape.
And I understood how AWS had transformed that landscape pretty quickly over a short period of time.
A little bit of streaming experience as well. So, I think that, but that's funny enough, no security experience, but that didn't seem to hold me back.
And then I went through the process, you know, that we've all been through.
So, met the team. I think my first, one of my first interviews was with Alex Fainting down in Singapore, he's still with us.
And then met the team throughout the stages of the interview and was successful.
So, and then I packed my bags and we could travel again to the US for the onboarding.
So, what was it like going from, you know, hosting company now, you're in a cyber security company, up and coming, you know, you're one of the first, I guess, employees here in Oz, what was that like coming into a new business?
And I guess, you know, completely different, I guess, technologies that you had to adopt and sell.
The technology piece was, like I said, I think it was an incredible learning curve, but it felt, you know, I felt probably when I, even when I first started my career in media, I felt like I'd, we were sort of on a bit of a, media was becoming fragmented even then, you know, online was transforming the media landscape.
So, it was definitely, it never felt like I was on the right side of the curve, so to speak.
And as online became more relevant and more disruptive, you know, when I was in, when I was at Civics Media, the same applied, online was disrupting and challenging traditional media platforms, which creates great opportunities, but it fragments your core community and fragments dollars as well.
And when I joined Cloudflare, it's probably the first company I've I felt like I'm at the start of something.
You know, where we are now, where we are when I joined two and a half years ago to where we are now, where we'd like to be in the future is, this seems the time is perfect.
And that opportunity to grow with a company that, not just from within, but that a company that is growing itself in terms of the products, the evolution of the business, the scale, adding more and more people.
You know, Naveen and I started, Naveen started a couple of months before, Naveen's one of our solutions engineers.
He was the first solutions engineer in the Sydney market. We, we work from home.
So, this is actually come full circle for me. We work from home for the first two or three months, and then we got a small four-man, we work office in, on Pitt Street in Sydney.
And now we're a team of 20, nearly 20.
And that's an incredible growth over the last two and a half years. There's 20 people that I've never met before that I've met in that period.
And I think it's just reflective of the opportunity that we've got now at Cloudflare to be able to grow and, and, and, and learn new products that will, learn new ways of engaging with customers that would hold us in good stead, you know, for, for many years to come.
That's great. So, you're saying you've come back full circle, so you weren't working from home when you first joined.
Yeah, I was working from home. Yeah, it was weird.
I remember like, I remember like it was yesterday. And so, I've got that sense, you know, when you're, when you're the first day of the first day, I've done my onboarding, back at home, and you lift up your laptop.
And that's my career at Cloudflare.
I'm now on, I'm now on it. You know, I'm doing my day job after two weeks of training.
It was, I mean, only working from home for about three months.
It wasn't, it wasn't long. But it was, it was, you know, it wasn't such an adjustment to, to, to, to, to, to work from home more recently.
But it was how we started at Cloudflare, or how Naveen and I started at Cloudflare.
And it's been incredible to see the growth in the last, that's probably the most exciting thing.
I've seen a growth over the last, over the last couple of years has been an eye -opening experience.
And a fantastic one at the same time.
So. That's amazing. What's been, I guess, if you look at the last years at Cloudflare, you know, and looking externally to the market, what's been the most, I guess, challenging thing for you in terms of, you know, pushing the Cloudflare message up out there?
Have you found it easy, difficult? Has it been, you know, has it, I guess, has it put it out of comfort zone in terms of the previous roles that you've done before?
Oh, every, every quarter is out of the comfort zone, but it sort of, it's meant to be, really.
You know, we've just done our birthday week, right?
New products being launched. New, new solutions to meet customers' challenges.
Sometimes they might not even know they've got challenges to meet, so to speak, you know.
And that's been, that's probably been one of the biggest, the biggest sort of challenges for me is trying to keep ahead of the tech, trying to understand what's coming up and then being able to articulate that and engage with customers in that, in that way.
You know, bringing on the customers that we brought in, you know, not, you know, I'm thinking of Canva in particular.
They've been a customer for a while, but to see how they've scaled has been incredible, you know.
And we've been able to, at every stage, where they've had a requirement to meet certain security objectives, whether it's leveraging bot management, whether it's leveraging access management or even imagery sizing, obviously they're an image business.
So, being able to grow with other really successful Australian businesses, I think it's been really underpinned the value that we've been able to add to our customers.
And then even just from a core perspective, you know, being able to bring in some nice brands, Chemical Warehouse are a brand of our customer of ours, Afterpay, Bunnings, you know, they are household names that we've been able to engage with, drive home and cloud their message with and bring them on board as a customer.
I think that's been super exciting. That's great. And I guess, you know, you're right.
It's definitely, you have the start of something that's coming that way versus being at the end of...
Yeah, we're going in the right direction.
And that is, it just makes the opportunities that we have here at Cloudflavor more exciting.
You know, knowing that and having some visibility on the roadmap and the product evolution is going to be super cool.
Yeah, super cool. And when you look at the security market over the last two years, what's been the biggest change in your opinion that's happened over the last couple of years?
Probably the last couple of months, right?
Yeah. I don't think there's anything specific.
It is sophistication of attacks is obviously becoming more and more robust and how we mitigate those is becoming more and more important.
I think that finally we're seeing security not just land on IT managers' desks, but starting to land in the C-suite.
And I think that's been something that hasn't necessarily been the case up until this point.
It's often a process rather than a requirement.
Now, particularly in recent times with the attacks that we have seen both in ANZ, but particularly in New Zealand, I think we've been able to become more, it's becoming more and more important.
And that's a natural extension of a lot of businesses, whether they're native to tech or traditional retail businesses that are migrating to e-commerce, being secure and also performance within that is becoming super important.
And I suspect that will become the requirements to meet expectations will get higher, which will put us higher up into the suite of the C-suite and being a fundamental part of not just a afterthought, but leading the strategy of any business moving forward.
Absolutely. Do you think our laid-back culture here in Aus makes us more vulnerable when it comes to security?
I don't think Australians are that laid-back.
I think sometimes you can say laid-back might sound a little bit dismissive.
The best people I've worked with have been in the Australian market, whether it's in media, like I said, my boss in the UK, he was Australian and he definitely wasn't laid -back, but he was laid-back when he was in the pub, but generally pretty focused on being successful and achieving things.
I think there was a really nice balance between how Australians are professionally, and there's no doubt that they want to hit the beach on the weekends or even in the evenings in the summer time and go for a surf, but their commitment to the nine to five or eight to six or whatever it might be is as professional as anyone I've seen and anywhere I've seen.
They just embrace the lifestyle balance better than most, and I think that probably gives some people outside of Australia the impression that we're quite laid-back.
We're just as professional and as focused as anyone else. I know what you mean by dismissive.
It's more just a personality trait versus a professional trait.
You're right. We're hard to please, but we're easy to please at the same time. Yeah, totally.
Totally agree. From a customer service point of view, I used to work in help desks many, many years ago.
You deal with an American customer and you get five out of five if you didn't accept them an exceptional job.
Dealing with an Aussie, you did a top job and you only get four out of five as a salesman.
You've marked me down.
Yeah, you know what? That's probably reflective of the expectations.
I just think Australians have a really good appreciation of the balance.
This is probably all embrace, right? It's a good thing. Yeah, exactly. Mate, what's your advice to the up-and -comers, either people that want to move into sales or change industry?
Do you have any words of wisdom from your journey? Be a sponge.
Learn, listen, adapt your approach, try things new, be super proactive.
The best way to learn is to have a go and accept that sometimes it's not going to go well, sometimes you're going to fail.
That's cool. You learn way more by having a crack and failing than just sort of being middle of the road, right?
It is a much better learning curve.
Identify mentors, identify people that can help influence your career and can help enhance that learning process.
I think that's really valuable as well.
Just be super enthusiastic. It is. I think regardless of the industry you're in, people that are positive and enthusiastic and give things a go are going to be successful.
You probably need that more in sales because you're going to get more knockbacks.
You're going to get people hanging up on you or deals that you thought were going to close that don't close.
That's just the nature of the game we're in.
That resilience is important.
Be positive, give it a go, willing to learn. I think it would be really important to anyone that's starting new.
I see you looking at a clock and going, am I going to get there?
I really appreciate your time today, mate. It's been awesome.
It's been a pleasure. Again, mate, I've learned a lot in our short hour, but I'm looking forward to it again.
Pleasure, mate. See you all next week.
Ciao. Thanks, man. Catch you later.